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Clinton talks are coup for Gilmore

OUR international reputation may be in ruins -- but the Americans still love us.

New research conducted to coincide with St Patrick's Day events across the US has found that Ireland is still popular.

As Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore touch down in Washington and New York to celebrate March 17, they will be glad to know that 42pc of Americans will be joining in.

Mr Kenny has a hectic schedule that includes a major meeting with President Barack Obama, while it was also confirmed today that Mr Gilmore will travel from New York to Washington on Friday to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Their timing couldn't be better as an extensive study by premier global polling firm IBOPE Zogby has found that US citizens still have a favourable view of Ireland.

The results of a nationwide survey are not due to be released until St Patrick's Day but the Herald can reveal that, despite our economic woes, 79pc of Americans continue to have a positive opinion of the Irish.

Some 35pc of the 2,097 adults polled claimed to have Irish heritage, while 28pc said that they plan to visit Ireland.

Significantly another 22pc said that they were considering a holiday in Ireland, thereby highlighting the importance of the Taoiseach's two-day visit.

Mr Kenny and his wife Fionnuala flew to Andrews Air Force Base overnight and he was set for a series of meetings focusing on business, trade and cultural links.

Today, he was talking with members of the Global Irish Network and his Economic Advisory Board before addressing a business leaders' lunch on the new Government's plan for economic recovery.

During his first overseas trip, he will also meet with other US political leaders, including the Governors of Virginia and Maryland, as well as holding economic discussions with the US Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner.

Tonight, he will give an address to the American Ireland Fund National Gala before tomorrow's centre-piece event at the White House.

In another political coup for the new administration, it was confirmed last night that Hillary Clinton is keen to hold talks with Mr Gilmore, who has taken over the Foreign Affairs portfolio.



IMMIGRATION

Mr Gilmore is currently in New York but will travel to Washington on Friday for "substantive discussions on bilateral issues".

The topics to be discussed will include the global economic recovery, Northern Ireland and immigration issues.

Speaking ahead of his engagements, Mr Gilmore said: "There are very few other countries who share the depth and range of bonds with the United States that we in Ireland are fortunate to enjoy.

"That connection is one that I value tremendously and will be making a priority in my new responsibilities as Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade."

kdoyle@herald.ie